Losing a loved one is very hard and sad. You may wonder how much time they have left and what you can do to help them. You may also want to say goodbye and tell them how much you love them. In this article, I will tell you some signs that your loved one is in the last hours of their life. These signs are not always the same for everyone, but they can help you prepare for what is coming.

Breathing Changes

One of the signs that your loved one is in the last 24 to 36 hours of their life is that their breathing changes. They may breathe faster or slower, deeper or shallower, or stop and start. This is because their body is weakening, and their lungs are not working well. Sometimes, they make noises, like gurgling or rattling, when breathing. They have too much saliva or mucus in their mouth or throat. You can try to make them more comfortable by raising their head, wiping their mouth, or giving them ice chips.

Rapid Breathing

If your loved one's breathing changes become very fast (less than three minutes between each breath), then they may have less than 12 hours left to live. This is because their heart is beating fast, and their blood pressure is shallow. They may also have cold or blue hands or feet because their blood is not reaching their skin. They may be unable to talk or move because their brain lacks oxygen. You can try to keep them warm and calm by holding their hand, talking to them softly, or playing soothing music.

Last Breath

When your loved one takes their last breath, they may cough or spit out some saliva or mucus. This is normal and does not mean they are in pain. They may also take one or more breaths after their heart stops. This is called a reflex breath and does not mean they are alive. It is just their body's way of shutting down. You can check their pulse or listen to their chest to make sure they are gone. You can then say goodbye and thank them for being in your life.


It is not easy to know when your loved one is near the end of their life. Only God knows the exact time they will leave this world. However, some signs can help you understand what is happening and what to expect. These signs are changes in breathing, rapid breathing, and last breath. They may not happen to everyone, but they are common. They can help you prepare for the loss and say goodbye to your loved one. Remember that you are not alone and can get support from your family, friends, or hospice team. They can help you cope with your grief and honor your loved one's memory.


Recognizing the approaching end of life

Understanding Terminal Restlessness

The Importance of Caregiver Journaling

Reporting Changes in Condition to Hospice

Eldercare Locator: a nationwide service that connects older Americans and their caregivers with trustworthy local support resources

Surviving Caregiving with Dignity, Love, and Kindness

Caregivers.com | Simplifying the Search for In-Home Care

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. The amount generated from these “qualifying purchases” helps to maintain this site.

My Aging Parent Needs Help!: 7-Step Guide to Caregiving with No Regrets, More Compassion, and Going from Overwhelmed to Organized [Includes Tips for Caregiver Burnout]

Take Back Your Life: A Caregiver's Guide to Finding Freedom in the Midst of Overwhelm

The Conscious Caregiver: A Mindful Approach to Caring for Your Loved One Without Losing Yourself

Dear Caregiver, It's Your Life Too: 71 Self-Care Tips To Manage Stress, Avoid Burnout, And Find Joy Again While Caring For A Loved One

Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved

The Art of Dying

Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying

Providing Comfort During the Last Days of Life with Barbara Karnes RN (YouTube Video)

Preparing the patient, family, and caregivers for a “Good Death.”

Velocity of Changes in Condition as an Indicator of Approaching Death (often helpful to answer how soon? or when?)

The Dying Process and the End of Life

The Last Hours of Life

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. The amount generated from these “qualifying purchases” helps to maintain this site.

Gone from My Sight: The Dying Experience

The Eleventh Hour: A Caring Guideline for the Hours to Minutes Before Death

By Your Side, A Guide for Caring for the Dying at Home

Oh hi there 👋 It's nice to meet you.

Sign up to receive updates on new articles to your inbox.

The emails we will send you only deal with educational articles, not requests to buy a single thing! Read our privacy policy for more information.

Share your love